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Exercises: definitions
Exercises: musical mnemonics
Exercises: posters
Exercises: role-play
Exercises: sculpting
Exercises: skeletal cases






"Sculpting" here refers to any technique which uses physical objects to represent elements within a system. It offers the opportunity for activity, and for the discovery of relationships which might not otherwise be apparent.

It also provides an additional visual, and sometimes tactile, channel of communication with fellow-students or the teacher when talking about complex relationships, which is why it is included in this selective list of exercise types. The use of objects (which can be neutral or symbolic — what is represented by using a key, for example?) gives an extra dimension which cannot be gained from mere diagrams.

Unlike a drawn diagram, too, the sculpt is ephemeral: you can move it about and change it without hassle, which encourages experimentation. If you arrive at a perfect arrangement, you can always draw it, after all.


The "Learner, Subject and Teacher" model is a sculpt: when used in a class, the students have pieces of card which they are asked to arrange to depict the respective positions of the elements of the system. They can move them around to represent alternative aspirations, or "what if?" questions.

When talking about patterns of relationships in class groups or work groups, students can readily use the contents of their pockets or bags to represent the members and arrange them physically to add an extra dimension. Coins, keys, scraps of paper, polo mints — anything small with a distinctive shape can be used. The arrangement can be done on the stage of an overhead projector if the whole class needs to see it.

An advantage of using physical objects is that there are three dimensions in which they can be manipulated. The attribution of the dimensions is often intuitive, but it can be formalised. In the Learner, Subject, Teacher example, the "vertical" dimension is formally designated as that of authority. Proximity and distance, clustering, size of objects, even colour can all be used to represent different features of the system.

A further development—only applicable on "touchy/feely" courses—is to use other students to produce a living tableau of a system, perhaps making use of socio- and psychodrama techniques such as "doubling", to help with the exploration of its dynamics, but that is best left to people who know what they are doing and who can contain the sometimes unpredictable outcomes! 

You can play with the sculpt here










See here for more on this in a therapeutic context




To reference this page copy and paste the text below:

Atherton J S (2013) Learning and Teaching; [On-line: UK] retrieved from

Original material by James Atherton: last up-dated overall 10 February 2013

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